If you read the Harry Potter books as a kid, you're aware of the happiness the stories can bring. But thanks to a study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology entitled "The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter: Reducing Prejudice," there's actual scientific research to back it up — and prove that the series has positive, long-lasting effects on the children who read it. It all comes down to the power of storytelling and, more specifically, the ability to identify with the main character (Harry Potter) and to recognize the desire not to identify with the negative character (Voldemort). The 2014 study found that reading Harry Potter books can influence children's and teens' views toward stigmatized groups.
The researchers who conducted the study explained their hypothesis and results, writing, "We conducted three studies to test whether extended contact through reading the popular best-selling books of Harry Potter improves attitudes toward stigmatized groups (immigrants, homosexuals, refugees). Results from one experimental intervention with elementary school children and from two cross-sectional studies with high school and university students (in Italy and United Kingdom) supported our main hypothesis."
Of course, it doesn't take a psychologist to know that reading in general is great for kids, and there are plenty of novels that encourage readers to embrace different perspectives and which influence their abilities to empathize. But the memorable stories about Harry, Ron, and Hermione that span a whopping seven novels and over 4,200 pages seem to have a particularly significant result, and this extensive study is further encouragement for people to pass their own HP books on to their kids. We knew J.K. Rowling's powers were magical all along!